I had the privilege of speaking at the National Association of Water Companies annual meeting in Miami, Florida, last week concerning municipal finances in the United States, and particularly California. The focus of the panel—which also included John Bohn (esteemed former Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission) and Mark Strauss (American Water), with Debra Coy moderating—was on potential opportunities for and impacts on the private water sector.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has released a new reform proposal for water resources, entitled Water for Life. While we generally think of the UK as a relatively wet place, Defra identified a number of water challenges facing the nation, including over-abstraction from rivers and groundwater basins, point and diffuse source pollution, projected future population growth and climate change. Water for Life collects a number of more specific reform proposals to form an integrated national water policy for approximately the next 20 years.
We often see critics linking together private water companies and bottled water as jointly promoting “commodification” of the world’s water supplies. While the differences should be fairly obvious between investor-owned utilities and companies that provide design, construction, operations and maintenance services to governments, on the one hand, and companies that bottle, distribute and sell water to consumers, on the other, last week those differences were brought into clear focus.
It’s not surprising, but a group of Democratic politicians and environmental organizations has come out against the California water bond scheduled for the ballot this November. The group has formed an organization simply titled “No on the Water Bond” and started a website and public relations campaign. It is interesting to see the differences of opinion that water causes even within political groups, and how they shift over time, since the bond package was approved by both houses of the Democrat-controlled Legislature last November. Last week, No on the Water Bond issued an open letter to the California Democratic Party Convention listing some of their reasons for opposing the bond measure.
In an earlier post, I discussed the errors contained in certain criticisms of the proposed California water bond to be voted on in November 2010. Those criticisms were centered on the provision that allowed investor-owned public water utilities to receive bond funding for projects to benefit their customers, who make up 20 percent of all Californians. Critics asserted (incorrectly) that the provision could lead to “privatization” of California’s water.